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In The Right Place

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February 2013
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Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 4-5:19; Mark 2:13-3:6; Psalm 36:1-12; Proverbs 10:1-2

Leviticus is the book of laws. On first glance this might seem like a dry topic, and in some cases it can be. But there is always something to learn from every passage in the Bible, even a list of laws.

One of the key aspects of Bible study is to determine to whom was God speaking in a particular passage. Sometimes God is speaking to believers. Sometimes to non-believers. Sometimes to both. The context of the passage and the audience God is speaking to in that passage determines to whom the information in the passage is directed.

The laws were being given to God’s people – people who believed in Him and were willing to follow Him even though they struggled at times to do so. So we know that the procedures, along with the promises from God, listed in this book are meant for believers. We should keep that in mind as we read, not only today but the entire Bible.

Leviticus 4 starts off by giving instruction for the animal sacrifices for dealing with an unintentional sin. Since the book of Leviticus is meant for believers we can conclude that this is not talking about the committing of a sin by someone who does not have a relationship with God. Someone who is apart from God – who doesn’t believe in Him or who has not repented and believed (as I wrote about a couple of days ago) cannot have their sins cleansed by 1,000 animal sacrifices let alone one. For God to accept the death of the animal on behalf of the offerer that person must have a relationship with Him to start with.

This was true in the Old Testament and is true for us who live under the New Testament. Jesus’s blood does not cover the sins of everyone. It only covers the sins of those who come into a relationship with Him.

Yesterday I wrote about reminders. When I read Leviticus 4:7 today noticed that every time people walked into the Tabernacle courtyard they would see the altar that had been splattered with blood from previous sacrifices. This would be a constant reminder of their sin and the need for blood to be shed (i.e. death) to pay for those sins.

In Leviticus 5 we read about certain sins that required a sacrificial offering. In verse 1 we are told that refusing to testify as a witness is a sin. We are, of course, expected to tell the truth when asked. But that is not enough. We must also be willing to tell that truth and not back away from such a responsibility.

In Leviticus 5:17 we read that even if we are unaware that we have sinned we are guilty. That makes sense. We are guilty even though we may not be aware that we are guilty. God understands that. That is why He says in verse 2 “When you realize what you have done”. Once we realize that we are guilty we need to make amends for it. I think God’s point is that we need to keep our sin in the forefront of our mind. If we push it to the back of our mind then we tend to minimize it. When we minimize it we don’t take it as seriously as we should. But let’s face it… sin is serious stuff. It has the power to keep us from heaven. The only thing that can overcome the power of sin is the death of Jesus who took the penalty of all sin upon Himself.

In Mark 2:14 Levi leaves his profession as a tax collector and follows Jesus. I’ve often wondered about the abruptness with which all these men just got up and followed Jesus. There was no hesitation on their part. Jesus said “follow” and they did. Today I had a thought. Perhaps these men had been hearing about Jesus or seeing Him and were just waiting for the invitation to join Him. Then I started thinking about people in my life who have heard about Jesus but are just waiting for someone (hint: me) to invite them into a relationship with Jesus.

After following Jesus Levi invites Him over for dinner where there were many other outcasts of society. Tax collectors were repugnant to the Jews because the were Jews who worked for Rome by extorting taxes from their own people. That is why the Bible often mentions “sinners and tax collectors”. The tax collectors were so hated that they had their own category below sinners. They were the worst of all sinners.

I started thinking about the “outcasts” of our society. Everyone wants to hang out with the rich, extroverted,  good-looking people in our society. But what about those people who don’t fall into one of those categories? There are poor people or disabled people in every neighborhood. There are people who can do nothing for you because they have no money, or power, or influence. Are we willing to hang around with them? And what about the people who are outcasts of the church such as the gay community? If Jesus were here today I believe He would be hanging around all these people. Jesus wasn’t looking to be served. He came to this earth to serve.

Mark 2:17 reminded me of something a pastor said when I first started going to church 21 years ago after leaving atheism. He said “a church should be a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints”. Isn’t that great? I have never forgotten that and think about it often. This is a good way to tell if you are in the wrong church. Or if you are going to church with the proper motives. If you are there to be seen you will get nothing out of it. But if you are there because you know you have a disease called sin, then you are in the right place.

Jesus (who is God in a human body) shows us how much it hurts Him to see unbelief in Mark 3:5. Jesus knows the end of the story. He knows what awaits people who die without having transfered their sin to Him — an eternity separated from Him in hell. We see in this verse that makes Jesus angry and sad. It should likewise make us angry and sad to see our friends and family reject Jesus. We can’t change their minds. But we can do something to demonstrate the love and concern that God has for His people. That is exactly how Jesus deals with the situation. Right before the eyes of the unbelievers Jesus demonstrates God’s love and concern for the man with the deformed hand by healing him. If these religious leaders had been less arrogant and stubborn they could have easily put 2 and 2 together to get the truth. If you are reading this and you are not yet a believer in Christ I hope you will take a good look at the Bible. You will see God’s love for you printed in black and white.

This makes a good transition to our reading in Psalms 36 today. Those who have no fear of God (verse 1)  cannot see their own wickedness. That is because the true nature of ourselves is measured against God’s word. If someone does not recognize God they will never understand who they are. They may end up doing some things that look good to the world but most likely they did these things for selfish reasons. I can speak from experience. On the few occasions when I did volunteer work as an atheist it was really more about me feeling good about me rather than helping others solely for their benefit.

According to Proverbs 10 the behavior of a child affects the emotions of the parents. If a child chooses wisely the parents will be at ease. If a child chooses poorly the parents’ hearts will be filled with grief. Sounds just like what we learned about God earlier. Not only are our parents saddened when we make bad choices but so is God.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post


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